Tony Britton, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.
It took a while for Jenny McGibbon to make the grade at work. The odds were stacked against her, but this young graphic designer has stormed into the new decade and proved she’s got what it takes.
Jenny, struck down by M.E. in her late teens after a lifetime of chronic illness, recently pulled off a stunning design commission when her subscription box of stationery treats dropped through thousands of letterboxes in the UK and beyond – with the ME Association notching up a £1 donation from every sale.
Jenny won the right to design the February stationery box delivered by well-known brand Papergang, adding a novel disability twist to the box and its contents. But M.E. meant she couldn’t go knocking on the doors of the ad agencies to drum up business – so she made them come to her.
After slow starts, dropping in and out of university and studying part-time, she created her USP with a hugely successful blog and a big presence on Instagram. The agency buyers came visiting and bought into her unusual talent.
“I started my blog while taking a year out of uni. I was bored and a little lonely, so I decided to document my story online”, said 25-year-old Jenny, who lives in Stirlingshire.
“It was just meant to be for me in the beginning, but I then started social media accounts to go with it. Last January, I hit 1,000 followers. We’ve now exceeded 16,000 followers on Instagram!
- Read Jenny’s latest blog: “How To Talk About Coronavirus: A Chronic Perspective”
- Visit Jenny’s Instagram page: This Thing They Call Recovery
“I started writing for myself but then realised it was also helping others. Now that I’ve finished education, it’s turned into my freelance design business.
“I’ve worked with bloggers as well as brands to create social media content, stationery, accessories, clothing and more. My Papergang box in collaboration with Ohh Deer, the publishers, was my latest launch and it’s something I’m really proud of.”
Tucked into a slimline cardboard box and nestled in a froth of pink tissue paper were a notebook, a ruler, an iron-on woven patch worded with an easy breathing reminder ‘Inhale & Exhale”, an eraser, a calendar, some sticky tape, a little leaflet about Jenny and the work of the MEA and a bigger leaflet about Tree Aid. Papergang say the sale of every box helps plant trees.
“The products were created to remind people that they’re worth more than their productivity”, said Jenny who had a condition called gastroschisis where babies are born with their intestines showing. She has to watch what she eats as she still has problems absorbing food.
- Read all about Jenny’s Papergang design and how it helped raise funds for the ME Association.
“It means a lot to me to have created such a range in an industry that’s usually about motivation, workload and increasing productivity. We all know what it’s like to get a new notebook and be sparked into making to-do lists, but I wanted to remind people they’re allowed to find things difficult. You don’t have to be busy to be valid or worthy.
“My M.E has definitely affected my way of working, and it’s the reason I’m freelance. I can’t travel into work every day and so, instead of a design agency job or in-house role, freelance seemed like the way forward for me. I work strange hours, mornings are a definite no-go, and sometimes there are strange days too. If I’m not well enough to work a few days in the week, I’ll work the weekend instead. Freelance gives me the option, which is imperative. I need the ability to be flexible around my health.
“I need regular breaks, and work mostly from bed. I’m lucky in that my preferred industry is used to freelancers and it’s not uncommon for graphic designers to work remotely with clients.
“My experience as a chronic illness sufferer has actually been very beneficial for my career. It gave me a clear niche, and real-life experiences which help me attract clients. Not only do I have relevant degrees, but my day-to-day life gives me insight that healthy designers won’t have.
“M.E makes it difficult for me to work in some traditional senses, but it makes me better at my job too. I’m now more patient, understanding and considerate. I have excellent time management, something I had to learn quickly while balancing my poor health with studying. I’m better at communication, having to learn how to accurately communicate my needs to family, friends, doctors, lecturers and more. I’m good at finding creative solutions to problems, too.
“There’s a lot that my M.E has taken away, don’t get me wrong, and, if I could snap my fingers now and be rid of it, I absolutely would. But I’m determined to use what I’ve learned, and push the idea that the sick and disabled have valuable insight.
“Accessibility in the workplace and supportive employers are tricky to come by, and I think it’s because in general our society doesn’t view disabled people as having much to give. They’re wrong, and I hope you know that. Please do not believe them. Whether you can work or not, you do have something to bring to the world.”
Help and Support
How you choose to help the ME Association is entirely up to you, and we are incredibly grateful for any support you can provide.
We are here to help with whatever you decide to do.
Contact our Fundraising Manager, Tony Britton, if you want to discuss any fundraising ideas or require support for your event. Telephone: 01406 370293 or 07946 760811 or via Email.
The ME Association
Please support our vital work
We are a national charity working hard to make the UK a better place for people whose lives have been devastated by an often-misunderstood neurological disease.
If you would like to support our efforts and ensure we are able to inform, support, advocate and invest in biomedical research, then please donate today.
Just click the image opposite or visit our JustGiving page for one-off donations or to establish a regular payment. You can even establish your own fundraising event.
ME Association Registered Charity Number 801279